It’s unlikely that Upper Canada College graduate Charlie Prinsep knew any of the inner-city graduates of Charlie’s Freewheels, the after-school program launched in his honour.
His impact on their lives has nonetheless been a dramatic one.
Prinsep was just 23-years-old when his ambitious and free-spirited life came to a tragic end while in the midst of a summer-long cycling journey from Vancouver to Toronto. He meticulously planned and documented his experiences on his blog ‘The Double Cross’ and geo-tagged his locations along the way.
Fueled by roadside strawberries and burgers, Charlie rode almost 2,000km in the first few weeks of his odyssey, which was scheduled to conclude at the end of August, after which he would head to France to earn his Master’s in urban planning.
His final blog post on July 31th, 2007, read: ‘Tomorrow I ride 150km over Roger’s Pass to Golden. It should be a good one!’
On August 3rd he was killed after being struck from behind by a car on the shoulder of the Trans-Canada Highway near Brooks, Alta.
Not long after, the idea for Charlie’s Freewheels, a program which teaches youth from Regent Park to build a bike from scratch, was born.
Colin Heilbut was a friend and classmate of Charlie’s. He’s also a co-founder of Charlie’s Freewheels.
He believes the program, which offers training in basic bicycle maintenance and repair as well as recreational and career development opportunities, is a fitting tribute to his friend. (learn more about Charlie’s Freewheels.)
Upon graduation, participants are given the bikes they worked on, and many go on to mentor and assist the next group of students.
“Had he still been around what would he be doing and how can we be true to his energy and try to carry on the momentum that he lived with?” Heilbut asked. “And that’s how we ended up with Charlie’s Freewheels. He made dozens of bikes and he used to give them out. So that seemed like a really suitable way to sort of remember him and also make a positive impact in the community.”
On Saturday, recent graduates of the program will honour Charlie’s upcoming birthday on July 27th, by hosting a bike tour through Regent Park. ‘All You Need Is A Bike’, will launch from Allan Gardens at 3pm. Each stop will be geo-tagged and linked to audio and video commentary.
“We’ve always wanted to keep in touch with the kids and not have them just graduate the program but also get them back for internships or to start learning about how to organize a non-profit, and we’ve had a great deal of success with that,” explains Heilbut.
“Some of the past graduates came up with this idea, and it’s one they thought might appeal to the public. They are not necessarily historians, they can’t tell you about when the Victorian houses were built — a lot of the tour is more their personal histories, what they’ve experienced and how the changes in the area have been affecting them.”
It’s also a testament to the impact of a brief but meaningful life. Despite his untimely death, Charlie rides on.
All You Need Is A Bike
DATE: Saturday July 24, 2010
TIME: 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
LOCATION: Allan Gardens (East Side of the Greenhouse)
Map at http://bit.ly/9EYBlu